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Student uses a pencil for an exam test. Credit: @tutatama, via Freepik

Test Strategies

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Test strategies include your approaches to both test preparation and test taking. By actively engaging with academic content and cultivating awareness during exams, students can optimize test-taking skills. 

Strong test strategies allow you to:

  • Capitalize on the effective use of exam time
  • Retain information for improved class performance overall
  • Feel more confidence and reduce stress and anxiety

Questions for Reflection

  • In what way do you struggle with test taking?
  • What do you find most difficult in preparing/studying for a test?
  • What do you find most difficult in taking a test? Why?
  • Did you know that active preparation for each class with regards to note taking, reading, and synthesizing lectures is the best way to prepare for taking exams? 

Basic Strategies to Try

Metacognitive Experts Peg Dawson and Richard Guare have designed this template to identify active study strategies and passive study strategies. 

  • List active strategies that you will use the next time you prepare for an exam.
  • Take a deep breath, and close your eyes to relax.  If you feel nervous or anxiety is getting the best of you, try mentally counting backwards from 100 by 7.  This cognitive task requires enough mental effort to replace your anxious thoughts.
  • Jot down all facts/formulas prior to beginning the exam.
  • Be aware of the time and point value of each section. Review how much time you have. What section is worth the most points?  Do a quick analysis of both, deciding how much time to spend on each section, and start with the section worth the most points first.
  • Read the questions carefully, taking time to underline key words/phrases.  Number multi-step prompts or questions, making sure that you have addressed each part of the overall prompt.

Questions about how to implement these strategies? 

Email your question to or attend one of our drop-in sessions.

Additional Stanford Resources

Resources Outside of Stanford